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Bible Study: A Woman Named Dorcas

How does your love show?

In Touch Ministries staff September 7, 2022

Gazelles—small antelopes spoken of in the Bible—are known for their grace and beauty. Some live where rains provide water. But one type, the Dorcas gazelle, can spend its entire life in the desert without drinking—receiving hydration only from plants. This gives it a mysterious quality rather like that of a Christian, whose source of life and love is an invisible fountain of living water, as Jesus promised (John 7:38).


Acts 9:32-42

Illustration by Adam Cruft


The church has been growing throughout Asia Minor. Appointed to minister to the Hebrew nation, the apostle Peter travels around Israel, preaching the gospel and encouraging the Jews who have trusted in Christ.


Your grace and beauty are obvious when you care for others. 

  • Everyone who places faith in Jesus becomes a member of the body of Christ. This isn’t just a figure of speech, but a metaphysical reality. (See 1 Cor. 12:12-13.) Christians around the world and throughout time are connected on a spiritual level in the Lord. How does Acts 9:32 reference this mystical truth? Consider that your faith makes you a member of “the saints who live at _____.” Does this description reflect or change how you think about your life and relationships?
  • Just before their healings take place, Peter addresses each person by name: “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you” and “Tabitha, arise” (vv. 34, 40). In your experience, how can using someone’s name contribute positively to a relationship? What does it tell you about Peter’s state of mind, focus, and attitude in those moments? 
  • When Aeneas is healed, Peter tells him, “Get up and make your own bed” (v. 34). God’s healing is always an expression of His love. Do you find Peter’s instructions impatient, commanding, rude, or encouraging? As you answer, consider the response by Aeneas (v. 34) and the community (v. 35). What differing roles do patience and exhortation have in acts of kindness?


Jesus said we’d be known by our love (John 13:35). As we let it flow through us, we discover joy.

  • Tabitha, or Dorcas, was a believer who “excelled” in charity and good works (Acts 9:36). The Greek word used here, plērēs, means “full of.”  Explain in your own words what it means to be “full of” good works. Do you know anyone you’d describe this way? What does this kind of life look like from the outside?                      
  • Plērēs is an important word in the New Testament. It’s related to plēthō—the term describing the apostles filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost—and plēroō, by which Paul exhorts all believers to be thus filled (Acts 2:4; Eph. 5:18). How would you describe the similarity between being “filled with good works” and “filled with the Holy Spirit”? Take a moment and pray that, along with Christ’s love, the Spirit’s power and presence would fill you to overflowing.  
  • Reflect on Dorcas’s handiwork and the joy it brought her friends (Acts 9:39). People filled with God’s Spirit have an abundance of love and seek ways to use it. Does this describe you? Is there a skill you’d like to improve in order to serve and care for others?


Our true citizenship is in heaven.       

  • God granted Dorcas more time to share His love on earth. But every day, whether special or routine, is precious preparation for an eternity with our Lord, whose love is everlasting.


Consider deeper aspects of this study. 

David’s name means “beloved.” Esther’s means “star.” God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and Jesus called Simon “Peter,” meaning “rock.” Names in the Bible often have special significance. When Luke wrote the book of Acts, he specifically included information about Tabitha and the Greek version of her name, Dorcas—which both mean “gazelle” (9:36). This animal was common in Israel during biblical times. In the Song of Solomon, the bride compares her groom, with his energetic strength and beauty, to a gazelle: “My beloved! Behold, he is coming, leaping on the mountains, jumping on the hills! My beloved is like a gazelle” (Song 2:8-9). This image adds richness to Luke’s hint that Dorcas’ name is important. Consider, for example, the energy required to stitch many garments for the people she knew and to shower her community with treasures. How might naming in God’s world be connected with loving others?

  • God let Adam name the animals and listened “to see what he would call them” (Gen. 2:19). What does God’s interest tell you?
  • Jesus has the name above all names (Phil. 2:9). How does this impact your relationship with Him? 
  • At the end of the age, the Lord will give all overcomers a secret name (Rev. 2:17). What could be the significance and effect of such privacy? 
  • God’s attention to you, down to the last detail, is a sign of His great love. Let the same love be your hallmark in every relationship. In this way, God can change your heart—and the world.

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